An informal conversation and guide to the sometimes confusing world of volunteering.

Gotta dance!

Dirty dancing theatre signI've been quite the culture vulture this month with no less than three trips to the theatre. Admittedly the level of culture has diminished as the month's worn on. It started with the Cuban National Ballet and culminated in a trip to see Dirty Dancing (or Dirty Acting as it should be renamed) by way of Noel Coward's Private Lives.  Anyway, if you know your petit jete from your hitch kick or you just luv(vy) the theatre darling, then here are some fabulous ways for you to, you guessed it, volunteer your enthusiasm.

T-Mobile Big Dance takes place from 3-11 July 2010. The aim is to encourage people to 'get into dance, increase fitness levels and generate a legacy of dance for all'. Throughout the 9 days, events will take place throughout London in parks, galleries and museums - showcasing the diversity of dance styles. Volunteers are needed to help with photography, filming and event organisation.

The Torch Theatre in Pembrokeshire needs Front of House and Marketing Volunteers and The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre in Taunton, Somerset have voluntary roles in their technical department and  Box Office, amongst others.

Aged 18-24? The Lowry in Manchester are specifically looking for volunteers in this age group. Application packs are available throughout May and June and the deadline for applications is 1st July 2010.

The perfomance mecca that is The Fringe festival is also recruiting volunteers. You could find yourself assisting with the  Fringe Opening and Closing evening parties or leading  a 3-person front-of-house team as a House Manager or Usher. Plus, you get 2 free tickets and an exclusive volunteers' party for your trouble.

And , er, here's one if you're a feminist and you like getting naked. Trilogy, an award winning hit show from the Edinburgh Festival 2009,  is coming to the Bristol Old Vic as part of Mayfest 2010. It's a 'celebratory venture into modern-day feminism' and women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes are wanted for a naked dance piece! Performances take place on Friday, 14 and Saturday, 15 May 2010. Mayfest 2010 will feature more than 40 arrtists and companies and runs at venues across Bristol between 7 - 22 May 2010.

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Help make cooking child's play

Lets get cookingChildren as young as five years old are being teased by their friends at school because they're overweight.

Now we all know that childhood obesity has become a right old sticky problem for us in the UK - with 2.3 million UK kids being classed as obese. So it's no wonder then that there are tons of organisations popping up all over the place to educate children and their parents on how to eat more healthily.

Cooking clubs are a great idea because they make cooking fun for kids. Thanks to national initiative Let's Get Cooking, a number of schools across the country have now got a cooking club of their own. And you can easily volunteer with them in lots of different ways.

From giving a 'healthy' talk in one of the schools  to planning sessions and teaching children cooking skills. Or for more skills based volunteering, lots of the clubs need help with marketing and project management too. Simply visit the website and search by borough for a club near you.

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Why don't you...

watching TV

It's up by two hours and 29 minutes.

That takes us to 30 hours and four minutes every week.

That's how much the average Briton spends each week watching TV.

Now, when was the last time I heard someone say, 'I don't have the time to volunteer'. Is it just me, but I'm feeling nostalgic for that BBC programme, 'Why don't you?'

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On the run

27113_434273800277_594455277_5439806_5972408_nAlthough this years London Marathon has only just finished the ballot is already now closed for the 2011 race.

I went to watch this year to cheer on my friend and was struck by how many people (36,000 to be precise) are willing to put themselves through the pain for charities close to their hearts. It was great to see and I felt extremely proud of him and the other 35,999 people. So if you're thinking of running next year and are lucky enought to get a place, there are lots of charities that would love your support.

And just in case you were wondering, he finished in 3 hours 48 minutes.  And no I didn't compete. He just let me wear his medal and pretend!

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The story of Tracy Beaker... not really

Tracy Beaker

Every year about 8,000 young people as young as 16 leave care and head out into the world on their own - does this mean we don’t CARE anymore?

Who do these young people turn to for guidance and help?

When someone is about to leave care they have to make so many decisions.  Transition is always an unsettling time for anyone so thankfully there is an organisation called SOVA (Supporting Others through Volunteer Action).  SOVA volunteers help these young people gain independent living and life skills. From securing appropriate accommodation to ongoing support. The young people are encouraged to go on to become mentors themselves in time.

Could you give your time to a young person before and after leaving care? At SOVA you can volunteer to help care leavers with a variety of issues including how to manage money, health and hygiene, cooking and cleaning, careers advice and most important of all being a listening ear.

Approximately 90,000 children and young people pass through the care system every year but we can show the next generation that just because someone leaves care doesn’t mean that people don’t care anymore.

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Such Tweet Sorrow

ryanrocketship on flickrSo, Shakespeare finally meets Twitter (I won’t provide the obvious portmanteau for this).  The Royal Shakespeare Company has decided to reach out to ‘the kids’ by ‘performing’ a modern version of Romeo and Juliet via the online platform of Twitter.

Whether this is an innovative use of new technology or a banal waste of time (I'd go for the latter) it shows one thing: Twitter is being used in all sorts of new ways and is no longer just a place for bored students to let us know what they had for breakfast.

Thanks to our resident IT geek Damien we’ve been on Twitter for a while now.  We use it to share TimeBank news as well as to promote interesting volunteering opportunities we hear about. So, if you work for a charity and are looking for volunteers we might be able to help out.

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© the UK is now one of the top three surveillance states in the world, third only to China and Russia. I saw a preview of David Bond's new film, Erasing David, last week. It's being shown on More 4 next Tuesday and explores privacy, surveillance and the information that is held about us all in the UK on public and private databases. In the discussion following the screening, David Bond got asked about whether surveillance was necessary to protect our safety and keep us secure.

He suggested that only the minimum information necessary should be collected and stored, but one of the keys to us all feeling safe comes from knowing our neighbours and feeling part of the community. So, if you want to get involved in your local community, just add your name to TimeBank's database of over 250,000 people interested in volunteering (and if you're worried about what we do with your data you can check out our privacy policy).

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Give and Gain Day - 9th July 2010

9786_BITC_GiveAndGain_2010_clear_backgroundGive and Gain Day will be taking place on July 9th all across the country.

Its the UK's largest day of action for employee volunteers - getting employees to give their time and expertise during work hours.

Do you work or volunteer with an organisation that could really do with a bunch of volunteers for a day who would  come along and get something done?

Now is your chance to get in touch and make sure that your volunteering opportunity is on the website. Heres a link to all the local Give and Gain Day contacts across the UK.  Get in touch with them now and they will help you to put your opportunity onto the website.  Take a look and see how local charities are getting people involved in on July 9th.

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